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"Santorum" search now a bit cleaner on Google

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Few things are guaranteed in life. But one thing we’ve counted on for years was that when you searched for “Santorum” on Google, the top hit would be Spreading Santorum. (If you haven’t seen it, don’t click now!)

The site is devoted to a scatological alternate definition for “Santorum” promoted by columnist Dan Savage to protest the presidential candidate’s anti-gay-rights stance.

Or so we thought.

As of two nights ago, SpreadingSantorum.com no longer appeared on the first page of Google’s search results for “Santorum.” Instead, Rick Santorum’s Wikipedia page, a Wikipedia page devoted to the crude Santorum definition, and Santorum’s official campaign site take up the top three spots.

Because Google personalizes its results, the results you see may vary. But as far as the Daily Dot’s been able to determine, the Spreading Santorum site no longer appears first.

Could it be that Santorum, the ex-congressman and GOP presidential hopeful, has finally accumulated more “Google juice” than his frothy counterpart?

According to Danny Sullivan at Search Engline Land, it probably has to do with changes Google’s made to its “SafeSearch” settings, citing a post on Google’s “Inside Search” blog:

“We have updated how we deal with adult content, making it more accurate and robust. Now, irrelevant adult content is less likely to show up for many queries.”

Even if we accept the judgment of Google’s updated algorithm that Savage’s Santorum definition is “irrelevant,” this explanation only makes sense if Google’s SafeSearch algorithm is at work even when users have it turned off. And then it still doesn’t explain why, for a few hours at least, a much grosser Urban Dictionary definition of “santorum” briefly overtook the top spot.

One thing is almost certain: The change is not the result of Rick Santorum’s request that Google change the search results. The search engine doesn’t do one-off changes; instead, it tries to figure out broader solutions to problems people bring to its attention.

Savage, the man behind SpreadingSantorum.com, isn’t losing any sleep over it. He wrote in a blog post:

“The damage is already done. No one has to Google ‘santorum’ when they see a headline like ‘Santorum comes from behind in Alabama three-way.’ Everyone gets the joke without anyone having to look it up. The new definition is out there. Mission accomplished.”

He also noted that SpreadingSantorum.com is still the top search result on Bing.

Congratulations, Bing—you’ve finally found a way to differentiate yourself from Google.